When thinking of Christmas, I think of cold weather, snow, family, a nice fire burning, warm beverages, good food, ugly sweaters, Christmas music, candles burning and all other stuff that is perfect for a winter night. This is Christmas for me, a person from the Netherlands. Although our last white Christmas was in 2010.
When looking at movies and reading books about Christmas, you’ll always find it’s winter everywhere! But nothing of this is true! There are many people that celebrate Christmas wearing shorts. These people prefer cold beverages and they will definitely not have a white Christmas! So how is it to have a tropical Christmas when you are used to a cold one?
Spending Christmas in Australia
Early 2016, we decided to spend two months Down Under. Super excited! Due to schedules and other stuff, our trip fell in the middle of holiday season. After we arranged the campervan, we booked our flights and other must-dos. It was only after we arranged this, that the realization of spending the holidays in the tropics kicked in. It felt weird that we would probably be in shorts and singing Christmas carols while putting on sunscreen.
Arriving in Australia in December
In the Netherlands, Christmas starts to take over the stores around September. The staff are filling the shelves with decorations, people are sharing gift ideas on social media, and recipes are everywhere. And just like that, we are getting into the Christmas mood. When arriving in Australia, all I was thinking was ‘I’m really Down Under’! Going to the store was about experiencing new items. I wasn’t paying much attention to any Christmas details. Although, I do remember that there was a lot going on about Pavlova. Australia Masterchef taught me that Pavlova is a very popular dessert around there. In our shopping cart, we only had food and camping equipment. But slowly I was experiencing more and more Christmas-sy feelings.
Our trip started in Cairns, to dive at the Great Barrier Reef. In the middle of town, we saw this huge Christmas tree filled with so many lights. That warmed my heart even when I was dripping with sweat. Talk about the spirit of tropical Christmas! Thinking back, that was probably the only decoration I noticed. I noticed the gift stores weren’t decorated the way they are in the Netherlands, and I found that the local tourist information was just focused on providing information about the area. The restaurants were also just decorated like normal. Here in the Netherlands, you can’t really escape the holiday season. Everywhere you go it’s Christmas, or Sinterklaas as that is the holiday we celebrate on the 5th of December.
Side note: My birthday falls in December, so most of my gifts are wrapped in holiday paper saying ‘happy holidays’.
The days before Christmas
On the 24th of December, we drove to Daintree National Park in far North Queensland. We played some Christmas songs in the car, our Santa’s hats were laying somewhere in the back of our van. My family made a care package for us before we left, but I’m not sure if that was very essential. While we visited the local farmers market we bought the items we needed for some simple meals. It didn’t felt like Christmas at all. No tree to decorate, no house to make cozy, no shopping for gifts and all the other chores that Christmas brings. On one side, it was very relaxing. There were no worries about what to cook, what to wear, what to give… But it did feel a little ‘too normal’ for this time of year.
Some of the neighbours on the campsites we were staying at were totally in the Christmas mood! At the campsite in Palm Cove our neighbour had a lot of inflatable decorations. A snowman, Santa and even a reindeer. They made so much noise inflating that on the first day we made a deal with the neighbour. He would only have them on while everybody was awake and could enjoy them. Our neighbour in Daintree arrived a day before Christmas to set up everything for his family. They love to celebrate at the beach, tropical Christmas style, so he was preparing a feast and building a gazebo to have the party in. These people were the reminder of the time of year. If we haven’t had met them, we probably would have forgotten that it was Christmas.
Christmas at Daintree National Park
When we woke up on Christmas morning, there was no excitement of gifts under the tree. Although we don’t really do that in my family anyway. After breakfast we took our van out for a little adventure. We saw that everything had closed, as expected, but we visited this part of the country to see the nature and not for the stores or restaurants. It was just amazing to wander around here, hoping a Cassowary would walk out of the bush. On our Christmas day in Australia we took a beautiful walk through the Mangrove forest. We swung on a swing at the beach beneath a huge palm tree. We were amazed by the amazing nature this part of the world has to offer.
Upon returning back to our camp spot, our neighbour invited us to pick up some of the leftovers from their Christmas feast. He was so sweet to invite us. We were very surprised when his wife told us that in half an hour they would break up the tent and pack everything to get the ferry back to the ‘mainland’ just two hours later. So much work to celebrate a couple of hours of Christmas day on the beach. This probably was the Dutch person talking to me, as celebrating this holiday on the beach is something you don’t consider in my part of the world. Your food will blow away or be covered in sand in an instance.
Nothing Like Home
My tropical Christmas experience wasn’t just wearing in shorts while drinking cold beverages. We weren’t with family, there wasn’t an abundance of food, and in general it just missed the holiday atmosphere. It was not home… When the tropics are your home, like for our camp neighbours, I’m sure that it all has a different meaning. For me, it was just another ‘Sunday’ on our amazing road trip through Australia. More about that later!